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On today's show I interview Dale Ahlquist, Chesterton expert and author of the new book, The Complete Thinker (also available as an e-book).

Today is December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception which is in a way really too bad for St. Romaric whose feast shares this day. Why is this a problem? Have you ever heard of St. Romaric? Obviously, saints are supposed to be humble so he probably doesn't mind but wouldn't it be nice to at least get a mention at Mass? St. Romaric was a Merovingian nobleman who lived in the 7th century. Queen Brunehilda had Romeric's father killed and Romeric became a homeless wanderer for a time. St. Amatus converted Romaric who then became a monk and founded a monastery called Remiremontin 620. St. Amatus was the first abbot but Romaric soon took his place and served for thirty years. He died in 653.

Okay, now that we've given due recognition to St. Romaric we can talk about the reason you're going to Mass today. Don't forget – you have to go to Mass today, it's a holy day of obligation. And for those of you who think you can be sneaky by going to an evening Mass and make it count for both, your wrong. According to Canon Lawyer Edward Peters, you have to go to two Masses to satisfy two obligations to attend Mass. You aren't required to attend a Mass celebrated specifically for the feast but you do have to go to Mass on the specific day.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception actually originated long before the dogma was proclaimed in 1854. For several hundred years there was a feast celebrating Mary's conception and in the Eastern churches the feast is still called the Child-begetting of the Holy Anne, mother of the Mother of God. The feast was first celebrated in monasteries before spreading to the general church.

On December 8th, 1854, Pope Pius IX promulgated the dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception which stated that Mary was granted a unique grace from God to be free from the stain of original sin. Mary confirmed the title when she appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858.

The devotion to the Immaculate Conception is especially strong in the United States. The council of Baltimore – of catechism fame – declared Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception the patroness of the United States in 1846 – 8 years before the dogma was officially declared.


National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Back when I was in high school we lived near Washington DC for a year while my dad completed a tour at the Pentagon. One of the most incredible places to visit, apart from the Smithsonian and the main post office where you could buy EVERY stamp in circulation – yes, I collected stamps and still have my albums – was the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The Shrine sits on the campus of the Catholic University of America and is the largest Catholic church in North America and one of the top ten in the world.

This show is pre-recorded but you can still leave comments about this and upcoming shows on our comment line at 719-235-5045

The construction of the church was approved by St. Pius X in 1913 who personally contributed to its construction. In 1915 the first model of the future church was created by architect Burrall Hoffman, Jr. in a gothic style that looks nothing like the finished church. The church took almost 40 years to complete and was finally dedicated 1959 by Cardinal Spellman.

The church is built in a Romanesque style so instead of the pointed arches and almost lace-like stone work that you find in Gothic churches, the arches are rounded, the windows are smaller and the structure has a much more substantial presence. One of the reasons that this style was chosen was to distinguish it from the National Cathedral which was being built at the same time. I've been in both churches and the National Shrine is much more breathtaking, especially because of the mosaics that cover the inside of the domes.

The most impressive one, and one that must give folks like Fr. Richard Rohr and Fr. Keating the shakes is the Christ in Majesty mosaic that covers the dome above the altar. I recommend that you save a copy of this image somewhere in case you ever start to believe that getting into Heaven is a cake walk. The mural is 3600 square feet of “don't mess with me Jesus” looking like he's ready to do some serious smiting. Flower power Jesus isn't anywhere to be found. Actually, Fr. Rohr, who is really big on man retreats where guys act primitive and dance around fires may like the art, but not the connotation.

The crypt church is impressive in its own right. There is a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes and dozens of other chapels surround the perimeter. You may have heard that one of the chapels is dedicated to Our Lady of Hope and was donated by Bob Hope's family. Fortunately, Bob Hope's reputation as a comedian is solid because his taste in architecture isn't.

Getting back to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, if you've ever mentioned this to a Protestant you've most likely received criticism for it. There are three main points about this dogma that need to be explained clearly so both sides start from the same point. As a side note, what I'm saying here isn't coming from my own minimal apologetics skills, I'm just stealing from the Beginning Apologetics Series published by San Juan Seminars and available at aquinasandmore.com. For only $54.95 you too can sound as smart as Patrick Madrid, Dave Armstrong, Scott Hahn or any other Catholic apologist with facial hair. This special package includes all nine Beginning Apologetics books and even though it's always included, we'll pretend we're giving you an extra great deal by throwing in the Beginning Apologetics I study guide. But wait, there's more! For a limited time, defined as “as long as the books are in print” we'll also through in the place-mat scripture cheat sheet so you can covertly defend the faith during meals with non-Catholics. Facial hair not included.

As I was saying, there are three main parts of the dogma. First, Mary was preserved from original sin and the effects of original sin from the moment of her conception. Second, Mary didn't receive this gift as a result of any action of her own. She was redeemed by Christ just like everyone else but instead of receiving the gift of redemption after baptism she received it proactively to preserve her from original sin. Finally, Mary still had free will. Just like Adam and Eve who also didn't have original sin but had free will, Mary could have chosen to sin or to even refuse to be the Mother of God but didn't.

If you want details including scripture verses, quotes from Church Fathers and other explanations of this doctrine and other Marian questions, you should really get the 6th Beginning Apologetics book. Each of these books is only about forty pages long and the easiest way to learn how to explain Catholic theology to non-Catholics and to Catholics who don't know or believe their Faith.

The Complete Thinker





Deacon Bickerstaff over at The Integrated Catholic Life has a great book recommendation for the Year of Faith:


The journey of faith is at the heart of why we are in this earthly life. Our God has issued an invitation to us… He has called us to a life of holiness and a communion of love with Him in this life and the life to come. He has called us to faith.

So often in this life, we lose sight of this important truth and gift. The demands of our daily living distract us from our true purpose and we find that our spiritual growth stagnates. We tend to compartmentalize our lives. The practice of faith is restricted to our time at church. Our family time is focused on earthly concerns of raising children and tending to spouses according to the expectations of the secular world. Work and career seem to override other considerations as we seek economic survival and professional success. The role of faith beyond the walls of the church is sometimes restricted to occasional prayers before meals, turning the religious education of our children over to others and the occasional pangs of guilt that arise when we discover that our decisions in all areas seldom consider the will of God.

For many of us, we recognize this deficiency and disconnect between the life of faith to which God has called us and the lives we lead. We may even try to correct this, but are we making progress?

We are in the midst of a Year of Faith, announced by Pope Benedict XVI, that began on October 11, 2012 – the Fiftieth Anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. This is a great gift for us; a time to rededicate ourselves to the journey of faith and a deepening of our life of prayer and a renewal of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives.

Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith

New Book from Randy Hain

Along the Way – Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith

A quick search on the internet and your parish book racks will provide you with many tools and resources to aid you in this effort. But, I encourage you to obtain a copy of Randy Hain’s new book, Along the Way – Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith, Liguori Publications, 2012. In this book, you will find practical guidance for allowing the ordinary challenges of daily living to become moments of grace and spiritual growth.

Read the rest >>>


Our Lady of LourdesWho: The Blessed Mother, also known as Mary, Our Lady, Theotokos, the one whom "all generations will called 'blessed'", and the one who is "full of grace"


What: It was declared, pronounced and defined “that the doctrine which asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful”.

Where: In the Papal encyclical Ineffabilis Deus, by Pope Pius IX

When: December 8, 1854 ; also venerated by St. Ephrem the Syrian (d. AD 373), St. Ambrose (d. AD 397),  St. John of Damascus (d. AD 755),  Blessed John Duns Scotus (d. 1308), The Council of Basle in 1439), Pope Sixtus IV in 1476, Pope Clement XI in 1708, and Pius IX in 1847.

Learn more about The Immaculate Conception >>


As has been made clear by Protestants and Catholics who have crystal clear memories of the way the the Church was before they were born, Catholics have a worrying problem. They worry about about how sinful they are. They worry about going to heaven. They worry about going to hell. They worry that they aren't worrying enough about going to confession, Mass and bingo.

Making a living as an apologist is easy.

Yes, we Catholics have a thing or twenty to show others about worry. And we're proud of it. With Western civilization slouching towards Gomorrah (r), we Catholics are actually rejoicing. What better excuse to worry more than when Europe is sliding into antiseptic barabarism and America has more debt than the entire world has money?

While you wail and gnash your teeth in the darkness, you would do well to ignore troublemakers like Gary Zimak from the misleadingly named "Following the Truth" blog. This Catholic apologist thinks that worry is not a Catholic thing and has written a new book - The Worrier's Guide to the Bible - that tries, through amazing contortions of scripture, to convince the poor reader that confidence in God is really the Christian way.


If you like to worry, don't read this book!

In order to spread this pernicious message, Mr. Zimak is giving away two signed copies of his book. I strongly recommend that you DO NOT leave a comment below about why you trust in God because if you do you may receive one of these books in the mail. On the other hand, if you don't think you have enough to worry about, you could leave a comment and then worry that you won't win a book (even one you shouldn't read) when we announce the winner next Tuesday (12/11/12).

(For the humor impaired, we do highly recommend Gary's book and hope you weren't worrying too much about whether or not we were recommending it.)

The Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy

The Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy

I (somewhat) recently had my fifth child.  It wasn’t until the very last days of that pregnancy that The Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy came into my hands, and it isn’t until now- six months later- that I am getting a chance to write this review.  How I wish this book had been around when I was just having my first child!  Mrs. Reinhard takes you through pregnancy- week by week- covering every aspect that you could ever imagine.   From miscarriage to physical complaints to fetal development to your changing spiritual life- this book talks about it all.

Read the entire post at My Life in the Domestic Church>>


Five Reasons to Love St. Francis Xavier

St. Francis XavierCo-Founder of the Jesuits: St. Francis Xavier was one of the co-founders of the Jesuits (Society of Jesus), along with St. Ignatius of Loyola, Blessed Peter Favre,and four other men. The Jesuits focused on evangelization throughout the world, and also participated in the Counter-Reformation. Because of their vow of obedience and willingness to spread the Word to remote areas of the world, Francis Xavier was sent first to the Portuguese areas in India. His first foreign mission as a Jesuit was to reform and strengthen the Catholic virtues which were seen to be in decline among the people there.


His Missionary Work: Francis Xavier was a missionary extraordinaire. He is widely regarded as the greatest missionary since St. Paul due to the sheer number of people he converted and lands he traveled. Francis Xavier took the message of Christ to the East into areas that had little to no experience with Christianity before. In a short span of only 10 years from 1542 - 1552, Francis Xavier managed to visit multiple countries; his estimated number of converts during that time are in the 40,000 - 50,000 people.

Learn more about St. Francis Xavier >>


Advent Symbols and Celebrations - Part II

Advent is a time of waiting, conversion and of hope, a preparation for the coming of the Messiah. The word Advent comes from the Latin advenio,  meaning "to come to"; it refers to the coming of Christ.  As with Part I, here are three more expressions of piety to prepare the way of the Lord.


Christmas Novena:

As Advent is a time of preparation for the birth of our Savior, it is natural to deepen our prayer devotions. One way this is practiced is to pray a Christmas Novena during Advent. There are several forms of the Christmas Novena - pick one to your liking!

St. AndrewSaint Andrew Christmas Novena. Because the Feast of St. Andrew (November 30) is the date upon which the season of Advent is determined, this particular novena begins on Andrew’s Feast Day and ends on Christmas Day. The following prayer is prayed 15 times a day, each day, from November 30 to December 24: Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born of a most pure Virgin at a stable at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, to hear my prayers and grant my desires. (Mention your intentions here) Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.

Standard Christmas Novena: Because the Novena is a traditionally a nine-day prayer, this novena runs from the 16th of December to the 24th of December. The shorter text version is here. The longer text version is here.

Christmas Novena with ‘O’ Antiphons: This Christmas Novena takes the form of the Liturgy of the Hours. It also incorporates the ‘O’ Antiphons also seen in the Jesse Tree. Thus, this novena is immersed in liturgical and scriptural language.  “The final phase of preparation for Christmas begins with the first of the great O Antiphons of Advent on the evening of December 17. These prayers are seven jewels of liturgical song, one for each day until Christmas Eve. They seem to sum up all our Advent longing for the Savior”. You can pray it here.

Read more about Advent traditions >>


Advent Symbols and Celebrations - Part I

Advent is a time of waiting, conversion and of hope, a preparation for the coming of the Messiah. The word Advent comes from the Latin advenio,  meaning "to come to,"; it refers to the coming of Christ.  Here are three expressions of piety to help us get ready this season.

 Advent Wreath

Advent CandlesThe Advent Wreath is traditionally formed by a circle of evergreens and decorated with four candles. In the Catholic tradition, there are three purple candles and one rose candle, marking the four Sundays of the Advent Season prior to Christmas. Sometimes, a fifth white candle in placed in the middle of the wreath which is lit on Christmas day.

There is a progressive lighting of the candles, Sunday after Sunday, leading up to Christmas. On the first Sunday, a purple candle is lit; on the second Sunday, two purple candles are lit. On the third Sunday, the rose candle is lit for Gaudete Sunday ( from the Latin word meaning "to rejoice") along with  the two purple candles, and on the fourth Sunday, the last purple candle and the other three candles are lit. Typically, scripture passages are read along with the lighting of the candles to offer reflection.



The History and Meaning of Advent

Advent Wreath

What is Advent?

The word 'Advent' is from the Latin 'Adventus,' which means 'coming.' Advent is the beginning of a new liturgical year (in the Western churches), and encompasses the span of time from the fourth Sunday before Christmas, until the Nativity of Our Lord is celebrated. The first Sunday of Advent is the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (which is November 30th), and so it will always fall somewhere between November 27th at the earliest and December 3rd at the latest. The liturgical color for this season is purple (Usually a deep purple as opposed to the lighter, red-violet shade of purple associated with Lent).

Like Lent, Advent is a preparatory season. It has significance because it is a season of looking forward and waiting for something greater; both for the annual celebration of the event of Christ's birth, and for the time when Christ will come again.

As noted in the New Catholic Encyclopedia, during Advent, the faithful are asked:

  • to prepare themselves worthily to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord's coming into the world as the incarnate God of love,
  • thus to make their souls fitting abodes for the Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace, and
  • thereby to make themselves ready for His final coming as judge, at death and at the end of the world.

Read more about Advent traditions >>


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